Reel Deal – Top 10
A subjective list of the top 10 slot games launched at the recent Global Gaming Expo
By Frank Legato
Last month, the world’s slot manufacturers descended on Las Vegas to unveil the “new model year” of slots at the Global Gaming Expo. The slot-makers use this fall trade show to display, for the slot directors from the casinos, the new games they intend to launch in the coming year.
More specifically, the games at G2E are typically in the market within a few months of the show, as lately, the manufacturers have concentrated on showing the casino operators mainly games that have already received regulatory approval, or are close to it.
As a journalist who has focused on slots for more than two decades, I’m always asked for my favorites among the new games at the show. That’s why I provide, for players, my personal “Top 10 Slots” for the coming year in this space.
Other than my top choice, these are in no particular order, and please note that this list is subjective—these are my own, personal choices for the top games coming your way in 2013.
Here’s my Top 10:
1. Tulley’s Treasure Hunt / Blood Life, International Game Technology: My “Best of Show” this year is two sides of the same coin. These are two IGT video slots with 100 percent skill-based video bonus games, played with a joystick. They work the same; only the themes are different. Each takes a 32-inch LCD monitor—called “portrait-style” when it is vertical—and lays it on its side to provide a video screen for the bonus rounds. Using the joystick, the player navigates either Tulley the Turtle through a 3D underwater scene or a bat through creepy catacombs, aiming at treasure chests, floating coins and other money-paying objects. The more bonuses you play, the better you get. Great fun.
2. Pawn Stars, Bally Technologies: This video slot takes the best part of the hit History Channel series Pawn Stars and makes it into a bonus. You pick one of the pawn-shop operators from the show, and an object you want to “pawn.” Then, the negotiations begin between you and Rick Harrison or one of the other tough-as-nails pawn stars over the price—and thus, the bonus.
3. Monopoly Prime Reel Estate, WMS Gaming: This new Monopoly game has a great video bonus based on the board game, but what makes it really special is its format: Called “Gamefield,” it consists of a nearly horizontal video screen—like a pinball-machine surface—and links it to a top-box video screen to really take you into the board game.
4. Ripley’s Believe it Or Not!, American Gaming Systems: The new version of the Ripley’s game, based on the legendary comic strip highlighting oddities from around the world, revives the best feature of the original Mikohn Ripley’s slot (designed by the same person), a knowledge-based bonus. You get a multiple-choice question, and you can use “helpers” earned during base-game play if you’re not sure of the answer. A thinking-person’s slot.
5. The Mummy, Aristocrat Technologies: I love this game for what have to be some of the greatest 3D graphics I’ve ever seen, remarkably recreating—along with video clips—the 1999 film starring Brendan Fraser.
6. Plants vs. Zombies, Spielo International: This game series replicates the popular internet game from PopCap, with the “Graveyard Bonus,” in which the player picks tombstones in a graveyard, looking for “suns” toward winning a progressive—before brain-craving zombies, advancing through the cemetery, reach the player. It’s a hoot.
7. NASCAR, Bally Technologies: Even if you’re not a fan of stock-car racing, this is a great game. If you are a NASCAR fan, you won’t be able to get enough of it. Players pick their favorite NASCAR driver from among five stars, changing the colors of the game and affecting the stake of the player in a bonus played out at Daytona speedway.
8. Moneyball, Multimedia Games: What is great about this game is the bonus, particularly if you’re a Baby Boomer like me. It is essentially a pinball/pachinko game played out on a top-box display of a “money tree.” It’s great fun to watch the Moneyball bounce around.
9. Dolly, International Game Technology: This new game series features country music legend Dolly Parton, in games packed with video clips of Parton performing, plus a really cool extra: 10 Parton hits are loaded into the game as background music, and you get to change the background tune at any time.
10. The Beach Boys, Bally Technologies: Maybe it’s because I wore out the grooves to the Beach Boys’ Endless Summer album when I was a kid, but I could have played this one all day. Five of the most famous Beach Boys tunes are woven around great video clips and images of the famous surf band, circa 1964. Great stuff.
Bonuses should be bonuses. Many of the newest slot machines have truly great bonus events based on a variety of themes. Many are great entertainment. Some of this great entertainment, though, may not happen to you.
Make sure your bonus is a bonus. And, make sure that bonus really happens. Some video slots repeatedly award bonus events that end up paying you a “bonus” less than your bet. Some other slots advertise elaborate bonuses that you never see.
Rule of thumb No. 1: Make sure the bonus is actually a bonus to what you otherwise would have won on a slot. Rule of thumb No. 2: If you go through $20, or certainly, $40 on a penny slot and never see the bonus, ditch it. A bonus is only a bonus if it actually happens.